The Red Sox have been largely dormant since acquiring Carson Smith and Roenis Elias from the Mariners during the Winter Meetings, but Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the team is considering some of the remaining left-handed relief options on the open market, naming Neal Cotts and former Red Sox hurler Franklin Morales as a pair of the options currently being discussed.
Boston currently has Robbie Ross, Tommy Layne and Elias as left-handed relief options on the 40-man roster. Layne, though, struggled with his control in 2015, and Elias has hasn’t done much in the way of relief work in the Majors or minors (five relief appearances dating back to 2011), so the team may prefer to keep him as a starting pitcher and stash him at Triple-A for depth purposes.
Morales, who turned 30 last month, spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox from 2011-13, working to a 3.90 ERA in 134 total innings as a member of the Red Sox organization. However, he struggled quite a bit upon being traded back to the Rockies and had to settle for a minor league deal with the Royals last offseason. That proved to be a shrewd pickup by GM Dayton Moore, who was rewarded when Morales turned in 62 1/3 innings of 3.18 ERA ball, averaging 5.9 strikeouts and 2.0 walks per nine innings. Most of Morales’ work did come in low-leverage situations, but he nonetheless held left-handed opponents to a paltry .192/.245/.313 batting line with the Royals en route to his second World Series ring in three years.
Cotts, 36 in March, was absent from baseball for three full seasons before a resurgent campaign with the Rangers in 2013. Since his return to the bigs, he has a 3.03 ERA and a 186-to-63 K/BB ratio in 187 innings split between Texas, Milwaukee and Minnesota. He was abnormally homer-prone in 2015, allowing 12 homers in 63 1/3 innings, but still managed a 3.41 ERA with solid strikeout and walk rates while holding opposing lefties to a .178/.243/.330 batting line. Right-handed batters crushed Cotts, though, and his velocity dropped notably from its 2013-14 levels, as he averaged 89.9 mph on his heater after sitting at 91.6 over the previous two-year span.
It’s not clear from Abraham’s report whether the team is consider Major League or minor league contracts in free agency, but we’re at the point of the offseason where some players coming off solid overall seasons will likely need to settle for minor league pacts (in some cases with notable big league base salaries in the event that they land on the 25-man roster at the end of camp). Other names on the free-agent market Craig Breslow (a familiar face in Boston), Manny Parra, Brian Duensing, Matt Thornton and Eric O’Flaherty, who is said to be nearing a decision on where to sign for the 2016 season.